Thursday, May 9, 2019

The Amazing Zancigs First Couple of Telepathy

The Zancigs were probably the first mind reading couple to make a name for themselves internationally. Granted, Robert Heller and Haidee Heller did raise a few eyebrows in their day, but they didn't have the impact of the Zancigs, nor did they tour as much. 

Their Real names were Julius Jorgensen, born in Copenhagen, Denmark March 7th, 1857
His partner was born Agnes Clausen, also in Copenhagen, Denmark in 1849.
Julius moved to the US in 1882 and a short time after he arrived, he met up with Agnes at a social gathering of Danish people who had immigrated to the US. They had known each other in Denmark and here upon meeting, they struck up a new relationship which eventually led to marriage. 

When he was living in Denmark his father had him apprenticed in the iron smelting industry. So when he came to America, this was one of his first jobs. While still employed in the iron plant,  an unusual request came to the young couple to perform at a church function. Because they didnt play any sort of instrument, they decided to try their hand at telepathy. Yeah, that makes sense. I can’t play an insturment, so I’ll read minds instead, lol. I’m going to guess that at some point Julius may have had an interest in this subject or picked up some of the expose pamphlets on how this was done. They began with the work that Robert Heller had done with his Second Site Act and expanded upon it. At any rate, they gave their crude demonstration and were surprised at how well it went over. 

According to Will Goldston’s book, Sensational Tales of Mystery Men, Zancig had an accident at the smelting plant, he badly burned his hand and was out of work for a long while. During his recovery, he decided that he would leave the iron works plant and try his fate in the world of mind reading. 

According to numerous sources, Their career began in 1899, when they start to present their telepathy act at San Souci Amusement Park in Chicago IL. This is even confirmed by a short article about them in a Mahatma Magazine in 1902.  Sensational Tales of Mystery Men, has them at Coney Island and claims that Horace Goldin discovered them there and later introduced them to Oscar Hammerstein.  I have a feeling Coney Island is incorrect, but it’s possible Goldin saw them at San Souci Park. And the Oscar Hammerstein connection is correct. He brought them to NYC to play his Roof Garden at $400 a week. The couple also performed at countless private functions for the high society of NYC. LONG before Steve Cohen took up residency at The Waldorf Astoria, The Zancigs performed there for 12 weeks.

In 1903 they met H.B. Leavitt, a theatrical producer who organized a Globe trotting tour for them.  And indeed they did travel the Globe. Arriving in London at one point they soon became a sensation. 

In 1906, The Zancigs gave a command performance before King Edward VII at Buckingham Palace. After this they toured across England as they had done before and again, the sensation continued. In the book, Illusion Show by David Bamberg, he talks about his family running into the Zancigs on a train in Norway. Agnes asked Okito if the young son, David, was going to follow in his footsteps. Because if he wasn’t she could make a ‘mind reader’ out of him. Remember that anecdote…

Here is a write-up from The Sphinx Magazine in 1906 of their act. “The Mysterious Zancigs were a strong feature of the Orpheum the week of Nov 6th. Their act is certainly a great one in every sense. They work rapidly and accurately in all their tests and are never baffled by any of the attempts made by the audience to fool them. Their exhibition may be termed telepathy, mind-reading, second sight, or by any other name. It goes just the same. Mr. & Mrs. Zancig honored the Sphinx with their presence, and during their call favored us with a private exhibition of their extraordinary powers. While this gifted couple were visiting Mammoth Cave recently, they had one pleasure of giving an entertainment in the bridal chamber of that wonderful cave”

Mammoth Cave is a National Park and Cave in Kentucky. One of the areas is called the Bridal Alter or Bridal Chamber and it was here in 1906 that the Zancigs gave an impromptu performance. 

In a 1906 issue of The Conjurers Monthly magazine, Houdini writes about the Zancigs, “Their act is about the best of it’s kind that we have ever seen, and we have seen almost all!”

In 1907 they were hired to work at the Victoria Roof Garden. They had an extended run that went into 1908 with the amazing salary of $1500 per week, the most ever paid to a mind reading act at the time.  From there they went to the Alhambra for a seven month run, then off to the Wintergarten in Germany.  Then back to America before the year was up.

IN 1910, they were requested to return to England and Buckingham Palace to perform again, this time during the coronation of King George V. They remained in England until 1913, when they finally returned to the US. 

This is just the early part of their career. On The Magic Detective podcast Ep 21, I go over the entire life story of the couple and those performers who joined the show later. Here is the link to episode 21

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Happy Birthday Doug Henning

Friday May 3rd marks another birthday for Doug Henning. Had he lived, he would be turning 72, and no doubt would be the spitting image of Merlin himself! On Friday, my second podcast on Doug Henning debuts on, it is Episode 20. Basically on this podcast I do a run down of the World of Magic Specials 5-8. I give a list of tricks and a few other details from the specials. There is something that I mention during the podcast, that I have talked about before and I'd like to mention it again. The 8 World of Magic TV Specials, though wonderful to those of us who experienced them as they happened, may not hold up well for newer generations. They likely seem corny, over produced, campy, even goofy. It was a different time for sure. But I also point out that even though I loved the specials they failed to capture Doug at his best. What does that mean?

To see Doug Henning LIVE was much different that the TVspecials. Gone were the corny jokes and the poorly written patter. Instead, what you have is a very confident performer who is genuinely funny, energetic, enthusiastic, and HAPPY to be in front of an audience. I never in all my years heard anyone say that "Doug Henning phoned in a performance, or walked through a performance". He was engaged and in touch with every audience he performed for. And amazingly, I found proof of what I speak.

On Youtube there is a video that someone shot of Doug performing LIVE in Omaha Nebraska sometime in the 1980s. Yes, he is wearing his signature overalls, but that was HIS style for the time. But the magic is rock solid, the entertainment is fantastic. Listen to how the audience responds to his various lines and quips. He is a master showman without question. Please take a few moments to enjoy the magic of Doug Henning!

Monday, April 29, 2019

The Magical & Musical Litzka Raymond Gibson

The woman who was known as LITZKA was born Pearl Beatrice Gonser, in Mt. Carmel Penn on January 11th 1901. Pearl’s mother taught voice and music and she instructed her daughter in these disciplines. Pearl also took up the harp at a young age and became quite accomplished ‘harpiste’. 

In regards to her music background, she was a graduate of the Royal Conservatory of Music in Brussels, and she was the featured soloist with the Boston Symphony and the London Symphony. As a featured Harpiste, she chose the name LITZKA as her stage name. Some sources have tried to say she was born with the name Pearllitzka, or ‘Little Pearl’. But census records show her listed as simply PEARL. 

The story Litza told later in life ‘was that when she was 8 years old she saw the Great Raymond perform. She then told her mother she was going to marry him some day. And sure enough in 1927 she did! Litzka became part of the Raymond Show, playing the Harp and later helping with the illusions. She was the ‘sawing in half girl’ and also presented Raymond’s version of the Substiution Trunk which he called ‘metempsychosis’.   

Litzka owned 5 different harps, one costing as much as $3000. She did numerous costume changes when she did her Harp act. She also had funny asides that she would throw in while she was playing various songs. The act was well structured for entertainment, but she was an exceptional harpist to boot. Litzka also began to do her own segment of magic in the Raymond show. It was a mix of asian inspired mysteries. She wore elaborate costumes and had her own unique presentations. Before long she added a trained rooster to the show. Her rooster would become more famous than her, he was called ‘China boy’ and was a bantam rooster. He did card tricks, as in finding lost playing cards. I would imagine that Liztka produced the rooster magically at the start of her act. So popular was China Boy, that he even had his own comic book, that the Raymonds used to promote and market Litzka’s act. And China Boy became a traveling companion for her as well. 

In the October 1981 issue of MUM magazine, Litzka relays a story of her days traveling with the Raymond Show. She said that they had arrived at the Port of Entry for Columbia South America. Litzka always took part in verifying the contents of trunks with the local authorities. She said that usually they only looked at 3 or 4 trunks and then would issue them the permits for their stay in the country. One of the things that they did to get in good with local authorities was to do a show in the Port City at the start of the tour. On this particular day, about half of the shows trunks had been loaded into cars and were on their way to the theatre. And that is when things get bad. A British freighter, The Tritonia” caught fire. The ship was loaded with petroleum, dynamite and other explosives. A quick aside, “who thought it was a good idea to keep these items all together on the same ship?”. Anyway, pandemonium insued. The entire crew of the Tritonia abandoned ship. The dock workers packed up, but not before leaving the other half of Raymond’s show ON the docks. It had been covered with tarps, but if this ship full of explosives was to, well, explode, it could wipe out everything on the docks, as well as local businesses and even the hotel near the dock. 

Please were evacuating the city. Even Raymond’s crew took off. He and Litzka stayed behind. 
There were updates about ‘when’ the explosion was expected to take place. And after the last update, someone realized that the Captains, pet cat was still on board the ship! The mayor of the town even went so far as to offer a reward to anyone who would be willing to go on the ship to retrieve the cat! And as crazy as it sounds, two German sailors accepted the offer and went on board the ship. No more than 5 minutes passed before the unthinkable happened. The ship exploded, with the sailors and the cat still onboard. 

The explosion was tremendous, towns people thought it was the end of the world. Parts of the ship were thrown into buildings all over the area. People hid for their lives. Litzka said she found herself hiding underneath the bed in her hotel room. Her husband, Maurice Raymond was downstairs enjoying the excitement with other hotel guests. 

Much damage was done to the area. Buildings had collaped, but some escape unharmed, like the local Theatre it was untouched. The trunks from the Raymond show that had made it to the theatre, were unharmed as well. So what was the status of the other half of the show that was left on the loading docks??? When Raymond and Litzka went to check, a crowd of people were surrounding that area. It turned out that laying upon the canvas tarps, covering the remaining trunks from their show, were the remains of the two german sailors. 
According to Litzka, the town was in no mood for a show, so they loaded the trunks from the docks and the trunks from the theatre into trucks, and continued on with their tour. When it came time to return a month or so later, that is when they arranged to do their show for the people of the Port City.  WOW, that is an incredible story!

Litzka performed in the Raymond show for 22 years until her husband died on Jan 27th, 1948.

Litza performed at a lot of magic conventions doing her act with the Harps and her Magic act with China Boy. At one point, Walter Gibson became her Manager. Eventually, Walter Gibson also became her second husband. And she be known as Litza Raymond Gibson. Or in reality, Pearl Beatrice Litza Raymond Gibson.

Another highlight of Litza’s career was when she became the featured performer for the Annual Fashion Show sponsored by Madamoiselle Magazine. Litzka created an entire show of magic and illusions around FASHION. She sawed models from the magazine in half, produced loads of livestock, birds, rabbits and of course China Boy. She had custom stage settings created for the event. Apparently this event was a traveling sort of show, with multiple different groups presenting shows. So Litzka had multiple sets and props created and shipped off to the various destiantions. From what I gather, she trained people to do some of the magic, but she would actually appear in person at some of the lagers of these shows. Her character for these shows was known as “Mademoiselle Magic”. 

Walter Gibson, her third husband, was known to be a prolific writer and soon, Litzka would join her husband by writing books as well. She wrote “The Mystic and Occult Arts” and “ the complete illustrated book of divination and prophecy”,  a book called “How to Read Palms” and later, “The Official Know it alls Guide to Palm Reading”. Some of these books are still in circulation today. 

Litzka sold the Raymond Show in 1994 to a group consisting of Mario Carrandi Jr. David Baldwin, Henry Muller and Sid Radner for $225,000.

Litzka Raymond Gibson died on May 11th, 1996, she was 95 years old.